Chapter 815 – A Life Like Drifting, Like a Dream
Li Qingshan thought for a good while, but he reached no conclusion. He was confused. Why am I in this desert?
He thought of something and checked his sea of consciousness, but it was empty as if something was missing. The motivation he had just found dispersed again.
However, he could not stay here. For some reason, great fear filled his heart, urging him onwards. He casually chose a direction and staggered onwards.
He had no objective, no companions, not even enemies. Only sandstorms passed by one after another. A strange sense of emptiness filled his heart, constantly expanding until it became one with the entire desert, the entire world.
His face had become rugged yet lost from the sand and wind. All he could do was constantly advance, afraid to stop for even a moment. It was as if he would immediately be swallowed up by the desert if he stopped. However, the exhaustion grew heavier and heavier. The earth no longer granted him endless support, instead draining his strength and spirit bit by bit.
The desert was no longer golden sand, and the sky was no longer azure blue. It was as if the constant sandstorms had blown away the colour.
Finally, after a sandstorm, even the sun vanished. All that remained was the empty, white sky, as well as the endless sea of pale sand.
The sandstorms stopped from then onwards. The wind vanished too. In the world, only he continued to trudge arduously, listening to his own rough breathing and stubbornly refusing to look back. He was unable to see that every footprint he left behind would immediately vanish as if it had never existed at all.
The concept of time became blurred. Suddenly, his final consciousness collapsed just like the stone.
Finally, he collapsed in the desert. Perhaps this place could not even be called a desert anymore. There were no rising and falling sand dunes, just boundless white.
His black eyes were blurred like frosted glass, gazing at the distant horizon. The white sand surged, swallowing him inch by inch.
Under the pitch-black sky, an uninterrupted chain of mountains lay there like a huge beast, quietly awaiting the break of dawn.
A hamlet sat below a small hill shaped like a crouching ox.
“Xiao Er, get up!” A voice broke the silence of the entire world. A middle-aged farmwife with a somewhat wide waist called out.
Within a pile of straw in the cowshed, a skinny young man immediately jerked awake from his dream. He wondered in a daze, Who am I?
He looked around at the dirty cowshed and sensed the itch from the mosquito bites. It was rather uncomfortable, but he found this all to be so familiar. He gradually woke up from his dream too, but the dream had been far too realistic. It felt surreal as if everything before him right now was fake.
However, when he tried to recall the dream, it rapidly vanished like a wisp of smoke. He could only vaguely recall it to be an extremely terrifying nightmare, basically striking fear into his heart and making him feel like he was unable to wake up. As a result, he gave up on recalling it.
“Where else could you be? Of course, you’re at home! Xiao Er, the weather is getting cold now, so don’t sleep in the cowshed anymore, or you’ll catch a cold! I’ve made breakfast, so come and eat!” The middle-aged farmwife smiled. Her voice was loud, but it was filled with concern, which filled the young man’s heart with warmth.
That’s right. I’m Li Er. This is Crouching Ox village. My parents were both farmers of the village, but they passed away when I was young. It’s all thanks to my elder brother and his wife who raised me. They’re like my parents to me.
He stood up and immediately loomed over the sister-in-law. The sister-in-law sighed. “Sigh, time sure flies. In the blink of an eye, you’re already as tall as your brother. In another two years, you can get married and start a family. We have to start preparing now. Once your brother returns from selling the ox, we’ll take the cowshed apart and build a new house for you. It might not end up being better than the other houses, but we can’t let it be any worse. With the kind of talent you are, Xiao Er, we can’t lose out to anyone apart from the kids from caretaker Liu and village head Li’s homes. Oh, the water is boiling. Stop standing there. Come and wash your face and get ready to eat!”
The sister-in-law rambled on for a good while before rushing off to the kitchen.
However, he only heard a single sentence. Once your brother returns from selling the ox!
Yes, this had been all planned out. Because the black ox that had grown up with him had become so old that it could no longer work in the fields, they were going to take it to the butchers in town and exchange it for money to build him a house. Back then, he had disagreed with this plan very much, but it was not like he had a choice. When farmers owned oxen, they were all like this.
However, when he recalled the black ox’s moist eyes, his heart shuddered, and he murmured, “No, no, this is wrong!”
Rushing out of the cowshed and leaving the sister-in-law’s calls behind, he followed the path leading to the town and sprinted off.
The morning breeze rushed into his face, filled with the refreshing smell of vegetation. The grass and flowers were close to swallowing this tiny path through the mountains. He moved swiftly, knocking off countless droplets of translucent dew from the grass around him, but he had not eaten breakfast after all, and the nightmare seemed to have drained him too much, so he felt tired very quickly. However, an indescribable impulse urged him on. Quickly, quickly! Find the ox!
He turned around a corner, and a familiar figure appeared before him. He was a middle-aged farmer with a simple appearance.
He stopped in a hurry and grabbed the farmer by the shoulder. He asked, “Brother, where’s the ox?”
“Oh Xiao Er, you’ve come to receive me. The ox has been sold already. Look, the money is right here, a whole eleven taels of silver. It’ll be enough for both building the house and finding a wife for you.” Big brother Li patted the bundle on his shoulder and smiled in a simple way.
“The ox can’t be sold! It can’t be sold! I don’t want a house or a wife!” He was frantic, speaking in an incoherent manner.
“I know you’re attached to the old ox. I feel the same. But this is its fate. We can’t just bury it!” Big brother Li became a little gloomy and patted him on the shoulder.
“Where’s the ox!?” He panicked, calling out furiously.
“It’s already been butchered. Even if you go, it’s too late. Let’s go home!” big brother Li said.
“Butchered? Butchered! Butchered…”
There was a rumble in his head as if something had shattered. He was dragged back home by big brother Li, returning to Crouching Ox village before he even knew it. The diligent villagers had already risen, all greeting him. Every single face was extremely familiar. Big brother Li also greeted them back with a smile.
They passed by a house of brick and tiles, and it was dark within the door. A statue was enshrined on the altar, and an old woman dressed in colourful clothes currently worshipped the statue. She was the village witch. She performed all the marriage ceremonies and funerals, and she also knew divination and exorcism. She was extremely capable and had quite the prestige among the neighbouring villages. Hearing them, she looked back and revealed a kind smile.
The voice in his heart rose up once again. He suddenly broke free from big brother Li and rushed into the witch’s home. He made his way around the altar and arrived behind it, arriving at a verdant vegetable patch.
Without the slightest concern, he began to dig away at a certain location that seemed to be embedded in his soul. He felt like his blood was boiling. As his hands dug into the moist soil, he felt nothing even when the sharp rocks hurt his fingers. Big brother Li’s calls and the witch’s questions seemed to be extremely distant. In that moment, he felt as close to reality as he had ever been.
Suddenly, a smear of white appeared before him. He widened his eyes and said with a trembling voice, “I’ve found it!”
In the very centre of the desert…
This should have been posted yesterday. I planned on taking a long break. My condition has been very bad during the past month or two. I really do feel tired. Never have I felt so lonely in my life, like I am trudging arduously through the centre of the desert, gradually forgetting about my companions, my enemies, and my objectives after each sandstorm.
I look around in confusion!
What… is supposed to be there? There clearly is something, but why can’t I just remember it?
It’s funny now that you mention it. I’ve always liked being alone. Compared to the noisiness of groups, I’d rather remain alone and maintain my aloofness. But, but turns out that getting along with yourself isn’t that easy.
Perhaps I should give up on being a perfectionist. That way, I won’t have to sink into a maze-like predicament over every detail, afraid that I’ll make some kind of irredeemable mistake with each step, where I just pace around as if I’m facing an abyss. As I hesitate, I miss out on even more.
Forget about it. Actually, you’ve already been making mistakes. You just always refuse to admit it.
I’ve tried countless times to read the books I’ve written myself—this one, the last one, the one before that—but I just can’t do it. There are too many errors. I never recall my so-called childhood, my so-called youth. For some reason, only the pain is especially impressionable, never to heal, such that I’ve even begun to doubt a little whether I’ve actually ever felt happy before. I might as well just give up on it all!
I can write fantastic novels to make up for that anyway, but what if I can’t? What if I’m unable to learn from my mistakes? How am I supposed to make up for that? I’m already in such a sorry shape, so how can I still come off as weak before the eyes of anyone?
I’d rather keep my eyes closed and sink into the illusions than open my eyes and look at this incomplete world, this incomplete self, like a stubborn, pig-headed child throwing a tantrum in the store, bawling and whining, I just want this toy!
But dammit, I clearly know I won’t be able to achieve anything like this! Stand up! Stop crying now!
Although I’ve said countless times to treat this as a job, it’s really very difficult. Before I knew it, I’d already poured too many things into it, my own dignity and self-worth, my reason and evidence of existence. Is there something wrong with my head?
There’s been many times when I’ve wanted to delete this passage. When I feel helpless and am in pain, isn’t silence the best way to deal with it? Why should I continue to put up with the humiliation? But there just happens to be answers that can’t be found even after adding to a diary a hundred times and questions that can’t be answered even after considering life a thousand times.
As a result, I need to use this kind of method to bring this to an end, to admit my weakness and powerlessness before thousands.
“Fine. A third-rate author like me just regularly writes uninteresting plots!”
But even when I make endless mistakes, I want to continue down this path.
Hey, answer me. Is anyone listening? Is anyone waiting? Sure enough, I really can’t continue down this road if I’m alone.
I’ll try to gather my courage and accept all these mistakes, to face this reality and cross through this desert, to find that dream again!